16
Jun
10

The Jackals and Legend of Kalo Dungar

“The historian has before him a jigsaw puzzle from which many pieces have disappeared.  These gaps can be filled only by his imagination.– Gaetano Salvemini

97 kms north of Bhuj; close to the Indo-Pak border; rising 462 m above sea level, is Kalo Dungar (Black Hill), the highest hill in Kachchh. This is probably the only place in Kachchh from where a panoramic view of the Great Rann is possible.

Being a strategic location there is an Indian army post at the top and civilian movement remains restricted to the temple complex dedicated to the deity Dattatrey – the holy trinity of Brahma (Creator), Vishnu (Protector) and Mahesh/Shiv (Destroyer) in one body. Twice-a-day, wild jackals (not white fox as many believe), are offered boiled-rice as Prasad. Apparently this has been going on for over four centuries.

Several stories are postulated to the feeding of the jackals but legend has it that there was once a holy man named Lakkhguru residing at Kala Dungar and worshipping the holy trinity. He used to feed wild jackals. There came a day when he found he had no food, so cutting-off a part of his body he offered it to the jackals, saying, “Le ang!’ (Take body part). Over the centuries, this got corrupted to ‘Long’.

Some believe that when Dattatrey walked on the earth, he stopped at the Black Hills and found a band of starving jackals. Being a god, he offered them his body to eat and as they ate, his body continually regenerated itself. Others accept as factual, the story of a benevolent king who once began a great penance there. To test the king’s asceticism, Dattatrey came down from the heavens in the shape of a jackal and asked for food. The king offered his meagre meal of boiled-rice, to which the jackal mocked, “Is this your penance? Your benevolence? You offer boiled-rice to someone who only eats flesh?” The king apologised and at once cut a large part of his body for the jackal. Pleased with this gesture, Dattatrey blessed the king and as the narrative goes, jackals of the area have ever since been offered a vegetarian diet by the temple priests.

Believe what you may, but it is an incredible sight to find wild jackals scurrying-in to eat the Prasad.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hv0PJ-MGax0

The history of Kalo Dungar is now obscured in antiquity but there used to be a Chatri and the place was known as Pachmai Pir. It needs to be kept in mind that we are talking about a period of 1000 years and the place has undergone geological and cultural changes too. Hardly anybody visited the Pacham Island as it was very difficult to reach. Very little is still known today and most of the information available on the net is repetitive and ambiguous. There are sites where people think Kalo Dungar and Dhinodhar are the same spot!

The place does find mention in Marianna Postans ‘CUTCH or Random Sketches of Western India with Legends and Traditions’ (1837): Chapter IX. Religious Ceremonies in Cutch. The Naga Pachami.

Robert Siverights refers to Alexander Burns who learned “that vessels had been known to be wrecked on Pacham and that they came for shelter in heavy weather to the island of Khadir” (Siverights, R., 1907, Kutch and the Rann, Journal of the Royal Geographic Society, 29: 331)

“To the south-west of Pacham Island almost parallel to the main land…Cutch, the Pacbam Pir which rises directly from the Rann to a height of 1437 feet…” (The Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 1909)

‘Visit of Mr. and Mrs. J. Royle and Miss H. Dowell to Kutch state: The arrival of the SS Vita off the Kutch coast with the Maharaj of Kutch; landing at Mandvi; the residency, Bhuj; a leopard shoot at the fort of Bhujia; camp life at Mundra; crocodile shooting; and a visit to Pacham Pir on the summit of Kala Dungar…’ (1936)

L. F. Rushbrook Williams in his book ‘The Black Hills’ (1958) “…even now, during monsoon season, a great deal of the eight thousand square miles which make up the area of the Rann is covered by water. Rising above the flat surface of the Rann are a number of semi-islands – Chorad, Bela, Khadir, Pacham…”

And, “…two significant aspects of PGW (Painted Grey Ware) culture should be noted: (1) the vast area covered and (2) the PGW assemblage is very limited. From Lakhiyo Pir to S’raswati in Uttar Pradesh…” Saraswati by Dr. S. Kalyanaraman, (Page 68)

New construction after the 2002 earthquake and a narrow road maintained by the army has lead to the flow of visitors/devotees to Kalo Dungar.

At a personal level, I find the new buildings loud and garish. It is an indicator of the human psyche that the names of the donors find more prominence than the deity itself! The place is beginning to look like a mall and I dread to, one day, find a fast-food joint offering ‘nirvanic cuisine’. The commercialization of religion is obvious and the ever jabbering visitors seem to have made the jackals wary. In 2000, I counted over 25 jackals. In 2009 only 8 came up from the wilderness. Once the Prasad was kept on a huge boulder; today, there is a carbuncle of a platform announcing the ‘long Prasad oatlo’.

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10 Responses to “The Jackals and Legend of Kalo Dungar”


  1. 1 sacredfig
    June 16, 2010 at 11:56 am

    What an amazing place, and fabulous pictures too!

    As for its state – given Modi’s new tourism ad campaign with Bachchan highlighting it as well (http://bigb.bigadda.com/?p=5643) this place is never ever going to be remote again. Dattatreya mall is on its way to happening…as for the fast food, one can only hope that it tries to be nirvanic!

  2. 2 meghana
    June 17, 2010 at 6:58 am

    what beautiful pictures..i hope i see the place before the mall and the eating joints come up..before the “civilization” drives away even the last jackal..and puts an entrance ticket to see Dattatrey and sell prasad..to be fed to the jackals to seek their blessings…where are we headed!!

    • 3 bichhubooti
      June 19, 2010 at 8:08 am

      Thanks Meghana and sacredfig! My offer still stands – give me advance notice; find at least 10 days to spare, and I will show you a Kachchh that does not involve the Modi and Bachchan hoopla! Do keep in mind the slipping sands of time though and in the words of J. R. R. Tolkien, “Not all those who wander are lost”.

  3. 4 Bal
    January 5, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Great pics/write up and great comments. My wife just returned from a week long trip to Bhuj yesterday; she’s into teaching/textiles and had taken a group of students to explore the Kutchi handicrafts. She told me about this wonderful place they drove to. Although a whistle-stop tour (she had other priorties), she came highly impressed by the beauty of Kutch and the humility and warm/bigheartedness of the people. Would love to travel to this place.

    • 5 bichhubooti
      January 6, 2012 at 4:37 am

      Thanks! However, the Kachchh scenario is rather grim and the incredible diversity and beauty of this place is threatened. Will be posting the latest re Kala Dungar…and as I keep telling my friends – come with me once before it all becomes history!

  4. October 31, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    That’s a wonderful piece of article with amazing pics, accept my compliments for bringing out the good and bad of it. I take interest in travel and photography and after having traveled many places around the world, it is now time for me to re-visit my native place, Kutch. Kala Dungar and Lakhpat happen to be places to see on that list (tho I’ve been to Dholavira few years back), is there any other off-beat place that you could recommend, portraying the real essence of Kutch.

    • November 1, 2012 at 9:42 am

      Thanks very much for the kind words.
      Unfortunately, the essence of Kutch is slowly but surely being eroded (more so after the earthquake) by unplanned urban expansion, introduction of ecologically harmful industries, plethora of NGOs and so-called festivals to promote tourism. Communalism too, is creeping into the very fibre of Kutch. It saddens me tremendously.
      Anyway, besides Kala Dungar and Lakhpat you may want to visit Kera (Solanki period Shiv temple); Kotay/Kotai (10th-14th century temple with exquisite carvings); Chhari Dhand (for birds); Fulay Plains & Kiro Dungar (this extinct volcano may surprise you with 65 million years old marine fossils); Than Monastery; Roha fort.

      I have translated a ‘Bhuj Heritage Walk’ booklet which will take you through a historical journey of Bhuj city. This booklet ought to be available now at Aina Mahal. Please contat Mr. Promod Jethi, Curator.

  5. April 29, 2013 at 7:14 pm

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  6. May 2, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    After I initially left a comment I seem to have clicked the -Notify
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    • May 26, 2013 at 10:14 am

      Not able to mail you as keep receiving a delivery failure message. I was unable to find a solution till I presented your problem to the Forum. Please note that I cannot unsubscribe my reader. You must do it yourself. At the bottom of the emails there is the “unsubscribe” link to click. If you are getting 4 emails, you will have to do that for each one.

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